Dr Darren Aoki and Dr Carly Adams have been exploring the challenges faced by people of Japanese descent living in Canada
Dr Darren Aoki and Dr Carly Adams have been exploring the challenges faced by people of Japanese descent living in Canada
An innovative project that shares the histories of Japanese Canadians in the post-war era has been shortlisted for an international award.
Japanese Canadian Histories in Southern Alberta: Time Map, Audio Journey, Memory Booth is a collaborative project between Nikka Yuko Japanese Garden and the Nikkei Memory Capture Project (NMCP), itself a joint initiative between the University of Plymouth and the University of Lethbridge.
It is in the running for a Governor General’s History Award for Excellence in Community Programming, part of a wider award scheme that recognises the work of community organisations across Canada.
Launched in 2017, the NMCP is a transnational oral history collaboration exploring the stories which seeks to analyse the cultural and social history of Canadian Nikkei (people of Japanese descent) in the second half of the 20th century.
It is co-led by Dr Darren Aoki, Associate Professor in World History and Oral History at the University of Plymouth, and himself a southern Alberta-born Nikkei.
He first initiated a pilot oral history project in 2011 to explore the post-war experience of 'nisei', (second generation Japanese Canadians) following the destruction of their communities and livelihoods as a result of the Canadian government’s systematic programme to forcibly remove them from their homes and dispossess them of their property.

This was a very challenging period for over 20,000 Canadian citizens of Japanese descent. It saw them rebuild their lives, families and communities while creating opportunities for future generations as well as wider southern Alberta society. Their stories and memories have painted a vivid picture of their sense of identity and place. It is this critical focus that continues to define the project to this day.

Darren AokiDarren Aoki
Associate Professor of World History and Oral History

The pilot project ran until 2017, when it was expanded to become the NMCP, and since then, the project has met with over 100 people and accrued hundreds of hours of interviews.
Dr Carly Adams, co-director of the Centre for Oral History and Tradition (COHT) at the University of Lethbridge, came on board when the project expanded in 2017. She said: 
“This project centres the histories of Japanese Canadians in southern Alberta, and was only possible because of the community members who have shared their stories and memories with us. We are very excited that our collaboration with Nikka Yuko has been recognized as part of this outstanding shortlist of projects.”   
Five years after the NMCP was created, its findings were unveiled in a ‘Returning the Stories’ Celebration at the new Nikka Yuko Japanese Garden Bunka Centre in Lethbridge.
This includes a time map exhibit that features the stories of the waves of migration of Japanese Canadians into Alberta; digital audio journeys that weave in oral histories; and an immersive memory booth, where visitors can opt to leave their own memories and experiences and contribute to the collection of stories.
Dr Darren Aoki and Dr Carly Adams have been exploring the challenges faced by people of Japanese descent living in Canada

Collaborating with the Nikkei Memory Capture Project (NMCP) and hosting the Memory Capture Booth, Time Map, and Audio Journey in our brand new Bunka Centre has greatly expanded the ability of our visitors to connect and engage with the history of Japanese Canadians in southern Alberta. We are proud to support these initiatives and the ongoing research projects and workshops that are shining a light on the history that has shaped not only our garden, but the southern Alberta Nikkei community as a whole. We look forward to many more years of fruitful collaboration with the NMCP.

Rhys Winder, education and program manager for Nikka Yuko Japanese Garden
The Governor’s General award recognizes community organizations from across Canada for their exceptional work in the field of Canadian community programming. Sponsored by the National History Society, the award will honour two recipients, one French and one English, for innovation in community programming. The winners will be revealed later this fall with each winning organization receiving a cash prize of $2,500 and a trip to Ottawa to receive the award.

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